, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 533-543

Photosynthetic UV-B Response of Beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) Saplings

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Abstract

Cloned saplings of beech (7-y-old) were exposed to enhanced UV-B irradiation (+25 %) continuously over three growing seasons (1999–2001). Analysis of CO2 assimilation, variable chlorophyll (Chl) a fluorescence, and pigment composition was performed in late summer of the third growing season to evaluate the influence of long-term elevated UV-B irradiation. This influence was responsible for the stimulation of the net assimilation rate (P N) over a range of irradiances. The increase in P N was partially connected to increase of the area leaf mass, and thus to the increased leaf thickness. Even a higher degree of UV-B induced stimulation was observed at the level of photosystem 2 (PS2) photochemistry as judged from the irradiance response of electron transport rate and photochemical quenching of Chl a. The remarkably low irradiance-induced non-photochemical quenching of maximum Chl a fluorescence (NPQ) in the UV-B plants over the entire range of applied irradiances was attributed both to the reduced demand on non-radiative dissipation processes and to the considerably reduced contribution of the quenching localised in the inactivated PS2 reaction centres. Neither the content of Chls and total carotenoids expressed per leaf area nor the contents of lutein, neoxanthin, and the pool of xanthophyll cycle pigments (VAZ) were affected under the elevated UV-B. However, the contributions of antheraxanthin (A) and zeaxanthin (Z) to the entire VAZ pool in the dark-adapted UV-B treated plants were 1.61 and 2.14 times higher than in control leaves. Surprisingly, the retained A+Z in UV-B treated plants was not accompanied with long-term down-regulation of the PS2 photochemical efficiency, but it facilitated the non-radiative dissipation of excitation energy within light-harvesting complexes (LHC) of PS2. Thus, in the beech leaves the accumulation of A+Z, induced by other factors than excess irradiance itself, supports the resistance of PS2 against combined effects of high irradiance and elevated UV-B.